Chihongo Angolian Wealth Mask
Found amongst the Chokwe of Angola, these masculine masks
(Chihongo, sometimes called Cihongo, meaning ‘spirit of wealth’)
are used to symbolise wealth and power.
The masqueraders wearing the mask pay homage to male ancestors
believed to be responsible for the prosperity and strength of the community.
Traditionally used to represent the male chief ancestor Chihongo,
the masks were once only reserved for use by chieftaincy during royal events such as the initiation of a new chief.
The masks are now worn for entrainment purposes, by men of the community,
during masquerade celebrations (danced together with the female counterpart, Pwo)
to bring fertility, peace, wealth and wellbeing to the village.
The Chowke people live in woodland savanna, but are also found along rivers and marshland with strips of rainforest.
In the north, the Chokwe are known as skilled hunters.
In south, their livelihood has traditionally centered around cultivation of staple crops such as cassava,
yams, millet, beans, peanuts and corn (maize).
Pastoral activity with cattle is also a part of the southern Chokwe people’s life.
They are regionally famous for their exceptional crafts work, particularly with baskets,
pottery, mask carving, statues, stools and other handicrafts.
The art work include utilitarian objects, but often integrates Chokwe mythologies,
oral history and spiritual beliefs. For example, the culture hero Chibinda Ilunga
who married a Lunda woman and took over power is an often sculpted figure.
The Cikungu art personifies the collective power of Chokwe’s ancestors,
while Mwana po figurines depict the guardians of fertility and procreation.
The Ngombo figurines have been traditionally a part of divining spirits who
are shaken to tell causes of illness, misfortune, not having babies and other problems faced by a family or a village.